Kalvin Phillips joins West Ham on loan from Manchester City

Published on 27 January 2024 at 16:00

The midfielder joined the Premier League champions in July 2022, for £45m from Leeds United. He was instrumental to Marcelo Bielsa's high pressure El Loco playing style, acting as an anchor-man in his holding midfield position. Subsequently, it was the 28 year old's long-term injury during the 2021-22 season that contributed towards Leeds downfall and the eventual sacking of Marcelo Bielsa.

This is because, the Yorkshireman's role was so detrimental to the way Leeds played, as nobody could replicate his endurance and the way he was able to intercept the ball to win back possession, which provided cover to his defenders and initiated the attacks. 

Pep Guardiola saw the potential of Phillips in a 1-1 draw against Leeds United at Elland Road, where a confident Phillips single-handley took on Guardiola's star-studded midfield and was a thorn in their side.

At Leeds where he had been since 2010 and went on to make 234 appearances he was cherished by the fans, dubbed the 'Yorkshire Pirlo', but the promise of immortality at Elland Road was always overshadowed by the lucrative pull of Manchester City's riches.

When he joined Manchester City, he had already cemented a place in Gareth Southgate's England side, starring for the Three Lions at Euro 2020 where they reached the final against Italy.


His arrival at Manchester City immediately raised concerns, he was too ill to attend his long-awaited unveiling at the Etihad Stadium and then only a month into the new season he underwent surgery on a recurring shoulder injury.

In his first weeks of training at the Etihad Campus, Guardiola's staff had doubts about his ability to operate in the team's system. Rodri was a natural fit for the holding midfield role and had become a Premier League star during his decorative two years prior to Phillips arrival. Meanwhile, it became apparent that some staff within the club believed homegrown talent Romeo Lavia was a much better suited midfielder than Phillips, Manchester City had sold Lavia two days after signing Phillips.

The 28 year old was sidelined up until the winter World Cup in Qatar, which meant he was unable to make an impression on Pep Guardiola, placing him further down on the midfield pecking order.

The relationship between Guardiola and Phillips appeared quite an unharmonious one, after shining on the global stage for England at the World Cup Guardiola publicly criticised the midfielder of being overweight and refused to include him in his starting eleven until his fitness had recovered.

It seemed his manager was eager to find an excuse and use Phillips as the scapegoat, with many other stars at City similarly just over the weight threshold. It felt as if in the crucial early days at City when a player would settle in and staff would assess their ability, Phillips' injury struggles had exposed him to early prejudice from Guardiola and co which could not be overlooked.

The lack of playing time for Phillips was really affecting his confidence and morale, there was mention he confided in former manager Marcelo Bielsa on a phone call and was in tears after one specific poor performance for Manchester City.


Unfortunatley, it just seemed that Phillips was too slow to adjust to the fine intricacies and unattainable levels at Manchester City where he was switched off and void of the intense levels of sharpness his teammates had acquired. These teething problems had been evident with new arrivals previously such as Jack Grealish whose life at City started very underwhelmingly, but with Phillips it seemed Guardiola was unprepared to give him time and persevere. 

In addition, few players will ever have to compete with arguably the best in the world but Phillips did. Rodri out performed the former Leeds player in almost every aspect and epitomised the perfect professional. 

It became apparent this summer that his time at City was numbered, after the departure of Ilkay Gundogan City entered the market and signed Mateo Kovacic rather than trusting in Phillips. He was also informed that he could leave the club, but the midfielder insisted on turning things around and staying to prove himself to his manager.

He has started just two games in all competitions this season and has not made a single start in the Premier League. Even after Rodri's three match suspension at Nottingham Forest, Phillips was overlooked for new signing Matheus Nunes.

West Ham were admirers of Phillips during the summer, after losing Declan Rice to Arsenal but instead opted to sign Edson Alvarez and James Ward-Prowse. A move to East London appears a fitting decision for the midfielder, West Ham play a direct long ball approach that suits Phillips attributes and under David Moyes at West Ham he still has European football he can play.

The move could pave the way for Lucas Paqueta moving the other way, although Financial Fair Play restrictions could make it complicated for City to complete the deal in January. This is an ideal opportunity for Phillips to get fit and find form before Euro 2024 in the summer and if it is a successful loan deal it could attract potential suitors for a permanent move in the summer.

Written by - Lewis Eadie

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